Cinnamon Pear Cake with Maple Brown Butter

by feastonthecheap on November 1, 2010

Mariel here. My mother – a bona fide festivity-phile – deemed every holiday worthy of its own special breakfast. On our birthdays we had Eggs in a Hat; on Easter it was Blueberry Pancakes; on Valentine’s Day we ate Heart-Shaped Waffles; and on Christmas and Thanksgiving, my mom whipped up her world-famous Coffee Cake. One of my favorite family traditions (we have many), these celebratory breakfasts are something that I’ve carried with me as a full-grown Big Kid.

In honor of the winter holidays that lay ahead, I’ve divined my own take on my mom’s coffee cake. Admittedly a more decadent beginning than any regular weekday warrants, this delicious dish also works well as a dessert (paired with vanilla ice cream, natch). And it’s cheap, really cheap, especially if you keep a well-stocked pantry.

While I won’t try and pretend this is health-conscious, I halved the usual cup of oil by simmering the pears in a bit of water ensuring that the dearth of oil didn’t result in a lack of moisture (yes, the old applesauce trick). This method also solves the rock-hard pear problem that’s inevitably playing out at your local grocery. I mean has anyone ever found ready-to-eat pears? I haven’t. But I’m looking.

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Cinnamon Pear Cake with Maple Brown Butter
Serves 15-20

Ingredients for Cake:
3 pears (any variety will work, I used Boscs), peeled, cored and chopped roughly – $2.08
1 teaspoon cinnamon – stock
½ cup water – stock
½ cup oil (canola, vegetable, corn) – stock
3 eggs – stock
3 cups all-purpose flour – stock
2 cups light brown sugar, loosely packed – stock
1 teaspoon baking soda – stock
2 teaspoons vanilla – stock
1 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted – stock

Ingredients for Maple Brown Butter:
½ cup light brown sugar – stock
½ stick unsalted butter (4 Tablespoons worth) – stock
3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup – stock
¼ cup milk (I used skim) – stock
Grand total assuming “well-stocked” kitchen: $2.09
Cost per serving: $0.14

Directions:
1. In a medium lidded saucepan, combine the water, cinnamon and pears over high heat. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes. Remove the lid and continue simmering uncovered for additional 5 minutes, until pears are tender. Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Lightly butter and flour the bottom and sides of a 9X13″ baking pan. Set aside.

4. In a medium bowl, very lightly whisk together the flour and baking soda.

5. Using an electric or hand mixer, combine sugar and oil until blended. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until just incorporated.

6. On lowest speed, slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just combined (don’t over-mix). Still on low speed, add the pear mixture and mix until just combined (again, don’t over mix). The batter will be very thick.

7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan (spreading evenly) and bake for 30-35 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean). Remove from oven and place the pan on a wire rack. Cool for at least 10 minutes.

8. Meanwhile, combine all of the Maple Brown Butter ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat through until the mixture bubbles, reduce heat to low and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Strain the sauce (a regular colander works fine) over a spouted bowl to remove any clumps.

9. Once the cake is cool enough to touch the pan, use a knife to loosen the edges of the cake. Invert onto a wire rack and then invert again onto your serving plate (top-side up for “saucing”). Repeatedly prick the top of the cake using a fork or knife (you’re creating little holes that’ll allow the sauce to seep down). Pour half the sauce over the cake, sprinkle the toasted walnuts over the cake, then pour the remaining sauce over the walnuts. Cut, serve and enjoy!